Sunday, August 3, 2008

Podunk Friday

Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival sometimes gets a bad rap because it's located in a public park in the middle of an urban neighborhood. Our schedule is quite busy this weekend, so we only have time to spend two days at Podunk, but we plan on coming to stay longer next year. We pulled off I-84 around ten o'clock and drove through this particular slice of urban America, counting on our handy GPS to get us the right spot. It was a sunny, clear morning and looked to become hot soon. We drove through a varied neighborhood with a range of ethnic restaurants (Vietnamese, Peruvian, Jamaican, Dunkin') that often suggest a well-mixed interesting place. The signs pointed us to a large park. We walked to the festival grounds past a driving range and entered through the gates of a baseball field. We noticed a swimming pool with a large field behind it filled with campers from tents to large RVs. As we set our chairs in front of the gaily decorated bandstand, I glimpsed a KFC sign within walking distance, but the whole aura of the festival area felt relaxed, pleasant, and festive - just the way a festival ought to be. The crowd was, perhaps, a little more diverse than a typical rural setting might generate, but we saw lots of friendly and the familiar faces we're used to encountering when we attend New England festivals.


Gravity is a band from Sweden just finishing a US tour. Perhaps their European background or their natural inclinations made their set a good deal more eclectic than many good U.S bluegrass bands, but their picking was good and singer Annasofie Lindstrom's strong and pleasant voice managed good sound alikes of a variety of singers, including Janis Joplin. Musically the group has a full sound and the individual instrumentalists were solid.

Annasofie Lindstrom

Kenneth Kjellgren

Jonas Kjellgren

Auldridge, Lester, and Ferguson

This band apparently only plays together at Podunk, and that's a shame. Mike Auldridge is famed as the original Dobro player with the Seldom Scene and continues to set a standard for others on the rather strange instrument. Emory Lester is a truly fine mandolin picker. His recordings with Mark Johnson are well known. Gary Ferguson has an evocative baritone voice while Marc Roy is a first rate flat picker. Gail Wade sings beautifully and writes good, too.

Mike Auldridge

Marc Roy

Emory Lester

Gary Ferguson

Gail Wade

Carl Shifflet & the Big Country Show

Carl Shifflet's show seeks to recreate the look and style of bluegrass music as it was performed in the early days of the genre. Performing behind a single mic, this band uses the elaborate choreography bands once employed to give solists better sound. Their set is professional and sheds light on the background of the music when it was performed on radio and in small, local halls. Unfortunately, the way they're packed together makes the Sifflet band quite difficult to photograph.

Dale Ann Bradley

IBMA female vocalist of the year Dale Ann Bradley brought her lovely, clear voice and first rate supporting band to Podunk in great shape. Dale Ann continues to become slimmer while not losing a note of quality in her voice. Her simple straight ahead singing only looks simple as she communicates clean, honest emotion and deep religious conviction in her work.

Dale Ann Bradley

Randall Conn

Tim Laughlin

Charles Field

Daily & Vincent

I've become a Daily & Vincent convert. They bring energy and commitment to their mix of strong gospel and secular music. Dailey's high tenor voice is one of the best in bluegrass music. Darrin Vincent contributes strong harmony. Their song "By the Mark" has had wide acclimation and "Not Just a Name on the Wall" never fails to capture the emotions of their audience. Jeff Parker on mandolin, Adam Haynes on fiddle, and the very young Joe Dean, Jr. are all first rate musicians. Dean's bass voice, coming from his slight carriage and young face never fails to both surprise and please. While their act rarely changes from show to show, their presentation is brisk and energetic. Fans respond very positively.

Jamie Dailey

Daily & Darrin Vincent

Jeff Parker

Adam Haynes

Joe Dean, Jr.

Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent, & Roger Moss (Promoter)

Claire Lynch Band

Claire Lynch has been around for a while. She announced from the stage that this month marks the 30th anniversary of the first time her picture appeared in Bluegrass Unlimited. Her voice has tremendous range of expression and the band plays bluegrass and swing with
equal skill and enjoyment. Her swingin' "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" is terrific stuff. Backed by a band of individual standouts, this band is truly superb. Jim Hurst flat picks or finger picks with equal ease. He's truly one of the greats, as is Mark Schatz on bass. Schatz' ham bone and clogging along with his marvelous bass versatility is a great crowd pleaser. Jason Thomas on fiddle, while not as spectacular as the other two sidemen, stands out as a first rate fiddler.

Claire Lynch

Jim Hurst
Mark Schatz

Jason Thomas

Pete Wernick Workshop

Pete Wernick is well known as one of the great teachers in the music. His career is so distinquished and varied it can only be very briefly summarized: Hot Rize, IBMA, Banjo Camps, and the well-known jam camps, which encourage players to come out of the closet and learn to jam. His workshop was both interesting and well attended.

Pete Wernick

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters closed the Friday show and also offered an instructive and amusing workshop session. Fresh out of the gate, this young band's first CD won a bunch of IBMA awards and catapulted them into the first rank of progressive bluegrass bands. Each of the players has wide experience as Nashville sidemen as well as strong backgrounds in formal instrument study. Chris Pandolfi was the first banjo graduate of the very fine Berklee School of Music in Boston, where Andy Hall also went. Their music always echoes and recognizes bluegrass sounds and rhythms while extending their sound into unique realms. The Infamous Stringdusters are one of those bands that can be recognized within the first half dozen notes they play. Many of these pictures were taken during their workshop, including several in response to the question, "Do you all play different instruments?"

Jeremy Garret

Andy Falco

Who's Playing What?

Andy Hall

Jesse Cobb and Travis Book